The NBA lost one of their icons last week, as Hall of Fame player and coach Paul Westphal sadly passed away at the age of 70. To honor his legacy, the NBA On TNT crew reminisced on the story of one of the greatest last-second plays ever designed that also involved one of the crew members, Charles Barkley.
In 1993 the Suns were playing the Blazers in one of their last regular-season games that year. The Suns had already clinched the best record in the West, but never the less wanted to win that game and catch 60 wins for the first time in the franchise history.
The Blazers had a 1-point lead with just 0.5 left in the game, as it was looking like a secure win in the bag for them. But Westphal had a plan.
In their last time-out, he decided that Oliver Miller will inbound the ball. Barkley had to set a back pick for Cedric Ceballos, who would cut to the basket for an apparent lob.
But the trick was that Miller was instructed to throw the pass over Ceballos’s head, so he doesn’t catch it, and Charles Barkley picks up the ball and scores, assuming everybody else would stop thinking the game was over. The key to the play working was that nobody else knew the rule that the time doesn’t start until someone touches the ball, so Ceballos had to make sure he doesn’t touch the ball on the initial lob pass.
Everything went according to plan as everybody, but Charles stopped after the ball hit the backboard. He got the ball, banked in the game-winner, and went into a frenzy, even injuring his teammate Kevin Johnson while celebrating. It was one of the most bizarre but genius last-second plays we had ever seen. But this was no accident, as Westphal was known for being one of the better improvises on the fly as far as coaches go, even though it took a lot of luck to make it work.
Westphal had fun with it, calling it the first play Barkley ran right. But in the end, he was very proud of it, as he called it the best play he ever designed. Barkley also later on the show shared his praises and love for his former late coach.